Have you noticed that the "wedding season" is getting longer? In the Midwest, it now stretches from March to November. Since it's just June, there's a lot of season left! That's a lot of creating awesome events for happy couples, and many long days and nights making it happen. You may love your work and your clients, but over the long run, it's possible to burn out. So it's imperative that you set AND maintain boundaries with your clients - to keep your energy up, keep providing the best service possible, and protect your company's bottom line.
Setting boundaries boils down to three critical elements: determination, discipline and communication. First, determine what makes sense for you and your position or business. You have to know how you need and want to work in order to set boundaries. (So, this means that boundaries might change over time, as you learn more about your work.) Then, you have to be disciplined, to maintain the boundaries you set. Communication will help you. By telling clients up front how to behave, what to expect, and how you're going to work for them, you'll head off a lot of problems.
Here are some key areas for focus in developing your boundaries:
Business Hours: For businesses with retail locations and/or landline phones, having set hours isn't a challenge. But if you give out your cell number or do business out of your home, it's harder. Decide on a set of business hours. Communicate these hours on your website and Facebook page, and let your clients know them upfront. Then, stick to them. Don't answer your phone or texts if it's after your hours. If you find this difficult, set up "do not disturb" hours on the device.
Communication Expectations: When you first meet with a client, explain how you work. When can they expect to receive your bid package or contract documents? How long does it typically take you to answer email, and what do you consider urgent? How many times do you generally meet with couples before the wedding? As you're outlining your approach, check in with the couple to gauge their reaction. Some clients want more frequent communication or faster responses. This is your opportunity to establish expectations that make sense for you while still making them feel happy.
Clear Deliverables: Be very clear with your clients about what they can expect to receive from you, and when. Problems arise when clients don't know what to expect from you, so they become nervous. If you give them a clear schedule, list of deliverables, or other such information, it helps them feel comfortable. Comfortable clients tend to require less maintenance on your end. Once you've provided them with these expectations, however, make sure you meet them. If you're not running on schedule, be upfront with your clients. Let them know what's happening and what you're doing about it.
Pricing Clarity: "Scope creep" is an often overlooked area where clients can drain you. For example, if your pricing is based on two one-hour meetings, but you end up meeting with a client four times, are you charging for these additional hours? Several years ago I adjusted my approach, so that I offer "a la carte" services like additional meetings at a set price. At the end of each consult, I outline what their bid pricing will include, and what would trigger additional charges. As a result, I've spent far less time doing essentially free work.
Professionalism: We know that millennials love to feel like they're friends with their vendors. They're seeking that personal connection. There's a line, though, between developing a warm relationship, and allowing it to take over your business time. You probably know the meeting - two hours later, you're still listening to the MOB going on and on about the family's personal politics. By wearing your "professional" hat and steering the talk back to your business, you're setting a boundary that can prevent you from becoming embroiled in personal drama and losing precious time that you could be spending developing new business.
What ways have you found to set and maintain boundaries with your clients? Did you have a particularly bad incident that caused you to change the way you do things? We would love your comments below. Share something that will help all of us be better wedding professionals!